Christoph von der Eichen (Christoph Rudolf of Oberdorla), an Anabaptist of Thuringia, was won to the Anabaptist movement by the Anabaptist apostle Alexander at Easter 1533. In May of that year he was arrested with six other Anabaptists (Ludwig Spon, Martin Dippart, Hans Rinkleben, Heinrich Hutter, Hans Breuning, and Lorenz Möller) at Mühlhausen. They were imprisoned 21 weeks at Treffurt and Mühlhausen. Elector John and Duke George of Saxony, who had jurisdiction over the imperial city of Mühlhausen alternately with Landgrave Philip of Hesse after the revolution (1525), demanded that they be punished with death in accord with the imperial mandates. But Philip refused his consent. He sent Balthasar Raidt, the pastor of Hersfeld, to talk to them, and Raidt succeeded in making them recant. They were released in November 1533, and were required to give an oath that if they backslid they would sell their possessions within two weeks and permanently leave the district.
Soon they were again working for the Anabaptist cause, though they had not yet been baptized. Christoph von der Eichen refused to let the priest give his dying father supreme unction, and is said to have spoken disparagingly of it. He was therefore returned to prison. Duke George insisted that he be punished by death for depreciating the sacrament. But he was released with the other prisoners in 1535.
On 15 and 26 June 1545, Christoph was re-examined. He had not yet been baptized, but confessed that he definitely held Anabaptist views. Thereupon the council ordered him to leave the city with his family and never to return on penalty of death.
On 11 December 1562, John issued the command to arrest Christoph von der Eichen as the head of the Thuringian Anabaptists as soon as he was seen on electoral territory. But he managed to elude them for two years. On 12, 15, and 19 September 1564, he was subjected to a trial with eleven other Anabaptists. Because he declared positively that he held Anabaptist views he was to be expelled, but refused to accept the sentence. The magistracy at Leipzig, asked for an opinion, recommended that Anabaptists be given further instruction by the clergy, and if they persisted in their error they should be punished with death by fire, in accord with the imperial decrees. They were therefore questioned again on 28 November 1564, and 17 January 1565. After another short period in prison they promised to do better and were released.
After their release they began anew to propagate Anabaptist doctrine. In the middle of July 1565 Eichen was again seized and imprisoned at Mühlhausen. In a few weeks he was released upon a promise to leave Mühlhausen forever. But he remained in Oberdorla and continued to hold meetings. When Franciscus Strauss, the Superintendent of Langensalza, was about to carry out the sentence of expulsion, Eichen wrote him a sharp letter and posted it on the Rathaus door on 5 June 1571. A councilor on his way to church saw the act, tore down the letter, and had the perpetrator arrested. But now the patience of the authorities was exhausted. Very likely Eichen suffered a martyr's death in July 1571.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967, I, 533.
Wappler, Paul. Die Täuferbewegung in Thüringen von 1526-1584. Jena: Gustav Fisher, 1913: 98 ff.
Cite This Article
Neff, Christian. "Eichen, Christoph von der (d. 1571)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 12 Dec 2013. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eichen,_Christoph_von_der_(d._1571)&oldid=87287.
Neff, Christian. (1956). Eichen, Christoph von der (d. 1571). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 December 2013, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eichen,_Christoph_von_der_(d._1571)&oldid=87287.
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